The best real estate websites help you find what you need, when you need it, no matter where you are in your plans to buy, rent, or sell.
Listings for apartments with balconies and curated home search results to your exact specifications are only a few clicks away, as are recommendations for a top-rated Realtor near you with positive reviews.
Additional tools can help you request a cash offer, check your home value, look up the quality of local schools, or chat with other investors about where to find your next income-generating property.
With the wealth of real estate information available online, we pulled together this round up of the best real estate websites by category.
To determine the winners, we spent hours researching the options, personally tested each one, and chatted with real estate experts about their favorites for a second opinion. Read on to see our top picks.
Best for renters: Apartments.com
Given that the median price of rent has increased by nearly 20% in some areas over the past year, a site like Apartments.com that makes it easy to search for a wide array of rental listings is a godsend.
The site has detailed information on over 1 million available rentals. The team behind the website makes copious phone calls each month to apartment owners and property managers; this helps them verify details including which units are available, the most up-to-date rates and fees, pet policies, and more.
In addition to including an extensive list of search filters such as washer and dryer hookups, patios, fitness center, and whether a unit has a balcony, one of the site’s most helpful features is the drawing tool, which lets a renter define their search area with precision.
On top of professional photos, many rental listings include video and 3-D tours. Users can filter for listings that include a digital walkthrough of some kind.
Moreover, the “Travel Time” feature lets you search according to the commute time, which you can set to any mode of transportation. If you want to make sure your commute to work is 15-minutes or less, this tool eliminates the guesswork.
Best for checking your home value: HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator
It’s the question every homeowner wants to know: How much is my house worth? Whether you’re doing some back-of-the-napkin math on how much equity you have or are curious to see how the housing market is performing in your area, it’s possible to get a lot of helpful information about your home’s value online.
HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator aggregates publicly available data such as tax records and assessments, your home’s last sale price, and recent sales records for other properties in the same neighborhood.
We also add a new layer of information to our estimates using a short questionnaire. Tell us a few details about your home, such as:
- How much work does it need?
- What type of home is it (single-family, condo, townhouse, or other)?
- Roughly when was your house built?
- Are you planning to sell soon?
Using these insights, we’ll provide you with a preliminary estimate of home value in under two minutes.
Think of any online home price tool as a starting point — and recognize that the data used may be limited. What’s nice about HomeLight’s tool is that if you want to get even closer to your home’s true value, HomeLight will connect you with a top real estate agent near you as a next step.
Local real estate agents can physically view the property, they list homes like yours every day, they know the neighborhoods, they know what’s trending, and they can call out unique characteristics on the property. You’ll be hard pressed to find an online tool that can do all of that, so HomeLight is able to guide you to the next logical step if you want a professional opinion.
Best for home search: Realtor.com
In the era of COVID-19 variants and remote work, homebuyer preferences are only getting more specific. People want a house that has it all — a place to focus and take conference calls but also a patio to relax outside.
These days it’s a lot easier to browse your options from your mobile phone or computer from lots of different sites, but one that stands out is realtor.com and its “keyword search” tool.
With this dropdown, homebuyers can filter their search results by whatever features are most important to them, whether it’s a fireplace, pool, length of commute, water front, basement, gated community, pond, or lake view.
Best if you need to sell fast: Simple Sale
Sometimes life changes unexpectedly and you need to sell your home fast for health reasons, a sudden job relocation, or to spend that year in Paris you’ve always dreamed about
According to the latest data from Ice Mortgage Technologies, purchase loans are taking an average of 50 days to close, which isn’t always a feasible timeline for a seller in a hurry. And the demand for a faster process has meant that options to sell your house for cash have increased in recent years.
HomeLight’s Simple Sale website, for example, provides a great alternative solution for sellers who need to move quickly by facilitating cash offers on its platform.
With Simple Sale, HomeLight provides you with a cash offer to buy your home. Sellers can skip repairs, staging, and showings and close in as little as 10 days.
To request a cash offer from Simple Sale, enter the address of your home and answer a few quick questions about it. We’ll provide an all-cash offer within 48 hours. You can sell your house in almost any condition, and close in as few as 10 days.
Simple Sale is far from the only program out there that facilitates cash offers for homes, but it has a few advantages over most alternatives.
When you request an offer, you’ll have the option of getting matched with an agent to learn more about how much you could get for your home on the open market.
This allows you to make an informed decision about your home sale, whether you want to go with the speed and convenience of a cash offer, or potentially make a higher profit selling the traditional way with an agent.
In addition, some cash-for-homes companies will only buy properties in a certain price range or within limited markets. For example, iBuyers typically only buy homes in fairly good condition and tend to operate in markets that contain somewhat homogenous housing stock.
Because Simple Sale has a network of cash buyers on its platform, partner investors have a wide range of investment strategies, including fix and flip and buy and hold, all over the country. This enables Simple Sale to provide cash offers for a wide array of properties in different locations.
Best for finding your next investment: FlipScout
Arguably the biggest challenge in real estate investing is finding the right property. This is true whether you plan to rent out or flip homes. FlipScout by NewSilver is a free tool that uses data and intelligence to identify the most profitable investments wherever you’re looking to buy.
For recommended properties, the site provides quick stats on the estimated after-rehab value, the estimated return on investment (ROI) after construction, as well as cap rate and gross yield. It allows users to search for foreclosure properties and auctions in addition to on-market listings that have a low price or have recently had a price reduction.
Best for finding a real estate agent: HomeLight
According to 2021 data from the National Association of Realtors®, 90% of sellers, and 87% of buyers, enlisted the services of a real estate agent in their journey.
However, with there being an estimated 3 million active real estate licensees in the U.S., it can be challenging to know who to hire.
In the past, the main way to find a quality real estate agent was to ask for a referral or call different real estate offices. However, companies like HomeLight have made the search for a top-rated real estate agent or Realtor® fast and easy to do online.
To get started, you simply answer a few questions about your timeline and priorities, and HomeLight provides you with two to three agent recommendations in two minutes.
HomeLight’s agent-matching platform is 100% free to use and it’s not pay-to-play, so agents can’t pay to be listed or appear as one of your matches. The company analyzes over 27 million real estate transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs.
The difference between a so-so agent and a great one can have serious ramifications. Imagine being disappointed that your agent didn’t notify you about the perfect listing in a hot market, so you lose out to another buyer.
Or what if you undersell your home dramatically due to bad advice? Our internal transaction data shows that the top 5% of real estate agents sell homes for as much as 10% more than average agents.
Best for FSBO listings: Zillow
About 7% of recent sellers sold their homes FSBO, or For Sale By Owner, meaning they did not enlist the services of a real estate professional in the process.
Some sellers choose this route to avoid paying agent commissions (though it’s been shown working with a top agent can help you maximize your sale price, helping to offset or exceed what you’d pay in commission.)
Other FSBO sellers may see a high-demand market and expect an easy sale. Whatever the reason for going solo, FSBO sellers still need to put together a quality listing and post it online unless they already know their buyer. And for that, Zillow is a popular option.
Usually, an agent would take care of this step by adding the listing to the appropriate MLS (multiple listing service), or the database where brokers share data and information about properties for sale. Listings in the MLS then get syndicated automatically to major listing websites.
However, absent this assistance from an agent, a FSBO seller can post their listing for free to Zillow and include video and unlimited photos. The post will appear on Zillow and Trulia to reach a large home buyer audience.
Best for market research: U.S. News and World Report
The real estate section of U.S. News and World Report offers a wealth of interesting information about what it’s like to live in different places around the U.S.
The site analyzes 125 of the most popular metro areas of the U.S. and has detailed pages for each city. Curious about the annual salary in Philadelphia? What about the weather in Albuquerque? How about the “Best Places to Live” or the top cities to retire in?
You can access it all via U.S. News and World Report, along with written commentary from local experts. Plus, you can also find a top real estate agent in your area with the U.S. News agent recommendation tool powered by HomeLight.
Best for neighborhood-level data: AreaVibes
Whenever you move to a new place, it’s helpful to scope out the area before making a final decision about where to live. AreaVibes uses what the site calls a “Livability Score” for cities and neighborhoods that takes into account amenities, cost of living, crime, employment, housing, schools, and user ratings (a rating of 100 is the highest an area can receive).
The site provides statistics comparing how affordable or expensive a community is compared to the broader city.
It also features comments from real residents about the perks and drawbacks of an area so a user can get the inside scoop firsthand.
While some other neighborhood data aggregators offer similar or even more in-depth information, what sets AreaVibes apart is that it’s free to use while still providing a heap of information about a particular locale.
Best mobile app: Trulia
Trulia offers a great mobile experience to shop for homes on-the-go. Earning 4.8 stars on the App Store, the app’s iMessage integration makes it seamless to share your favorite listings with your partner, family, or friends. Meanwhile, the draw function helps a prospective buyer define their search with exactitude.
The Local Information feature that appears below each listing has a handy map view and street view so house hunters can get oriented with the surrounding neighborhood without leaving the app. Trulia also provides map overlays for schools, nearby dining and shopping, and demographic trends for the area.
Best for investor resources and networking: BiggerPockets
BiggerPockets has cultivated a massive online community for real estate investors and offers a ton of related educational resources to boot. While much of the content is free, the site also has a pro plan that unlocks access to additional premium materials and offers including discounts for closing cost, tenant screening, and marketing tools; access to the “Rentometer” that displays market rents; and several calculators that analyze investment opportunities from different angles.
Users of the site can get a lot of value at no cost, too. For example, the Forums part of the site operates somewhat like a non-anonymous Reddit where investors can ask anything to the broader community and connect through nested comment threads. Curious whether McAllen, Texas, or Chattanooga, Tennessee is a better place to invest? Throw it out to the forum and crowdsource the answer on BiggerPockets.
Best for first-time buyers: HomeLight Buyer Resource Center
Buying a home is an exciting but overwhelming process, especially for first-timers. so HomeLight created an entire hub of resources to help you navigate each step with confidence.
Whether you need to know the cost to build a home from scratch, which first-time home buyer programs you may qualify for, or what to do if the appraisal comes in lower than your offer, the HomeLight Buyer Resource Center is going to be a helpful site to bookmark.
Best for veterans: MilitaryByOwner
MilitaryByOwner aggregates home and rental listings near U.S. Military Bases in addition to providing other housing resources for military members and their families.
It was founded in 2000 by Dave and Sharon Gran; Dave — a veteran who served in the marine corps for 21 years — and Sharon, who worked in real estate, were the perfect duo to launch a military-focused real estate website. And with most of their staff and content creators being military spouses, MilitaryByOwner is well-qualified and uniquely positioned to serve their customer base.
Using MilitaryByOwner differs from other home search sites in that you can filter by state, and then by military base within that state. Any listings you pull up will then display how many miles the particular home is from the base in addition to other pertinent property details.
Best for school districts: GreatSchools
HomeLight’s Fall 2021 industry trends survey found that quality schools rank as the second biggest priority on homebuyer wish lists, behind only a home office. And for millennial homebuyers, many of whom now have children reaching school-age, school district ranks no. 1 among their home search considerations.
Enter GreatSchools, a national nonprofit organization, as a valuable tool for parents who seek out school district information in their search for a new home.
While AreaVibes, a site mentioned above on this list, includes helpful data on schools as well, GreatSchools is an entire website focused on providing school ratings and resources.
With GreatSchools, a user can look up schools within a city and see each school’s summary rating. The GreatSchools rating follows a 1-10 scale signaling whether schools are rank below average, average, or above average.
The rating takes into account academics, equity, and environment. If a user likes what they see, they can then click through to Zillow straight from Great Schools to shop for nearby homes.
Best for finding accessible rental housing: ForRent.com
Locating accessible rental housing can be a complicated and frustrating process. But ForRent.com, which is in the Apartments.com network, makes it easier by allowing users to filter for listings with disability access, similar to how you would sort by number of bedrooms or bathrooms.
The site has also made an accessibility commitment and has optimized the website with voice commands, enlarged text and images, and the use of captioning and transcripts.
The best real estate websites offer a wealth of resources
It’s quite amazing to realize how much information about real estate is available online. Using the sites we just reviewed, you can find your next rental pad, investigate school rankings, and experience the beauty of a neighborhood you’ve never visited thanks to technology.
But if there ever comes a point where you get tired of the virtual world, you can always put away your screens and ask a top real estate agent for their professional opinion — you know, IRL.
Header Image Source: (Startup Stock Photos)
- "The Cost of Rent Is Where Many Americans Are Feeling Inflation Most," The Wall Street Journal (December 2021)
- "Origination Insight Report," ICE Mortgage Technology™ (November 2021)
- "Quick Real Estate Statistics," National Association of Realtors® (October 2021)
- "2021 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers," National Association of Realtors®, Jessica Lautz et al. (November 2021)